Classification can be used as a means to inventory the large variety of coastal systems. They may be based on:
- Material – hard/soft, origin, size;
- Tectonic controls – e.g. Inman and Nordstrom (1971);
- Sea-level criterion – e.g. Valentin (1952);
- Dominant processes.
The diversity in coastal systems is the result of the simultaneous occurrence of all coastal system determining factors in a nearly infinite number of combinations. That is why there exists no truly unique classification system of coastal ocean systems; and that is why one encounters a large variety of classification systems in literature. Classification is scale dependent; the tectonic classification for instance describes only the broadest features of a coast and also in process-based classifications the levels of aggregation can vary.
The process-based classification on the basis of the relative importance of fluvial sediment supply and wave and tidal action – comes closest to the approach in these lecture notes that discuss the characteristics of coastal systems based on the (hydrodynamic) boundary forcing to the coastal system and resulting sediment transport processes.